On Thursday 2nd March 2017 members of the Gravesend RSPB Local Group joined with David Arnold’s family and other friends on the occasion of his cremation at the Gravesend Crematorium.
David was a founder member of our group and was our second group leader. Under David’s leadership the group established the organisation and routines that we still use today. But he also did so much more and he was given the RSPB Presidents Award in 1995.
David often said that he was a great talker (and he was!) but he was also a man of action. He picked up on ideas and made them happen, and although he led by example, he needed to work with others. He drew people towards him and, with them, he achieved a lot – but wasn’t it fun! Whether it was a local fete, a school event or leading a community walk around the RSPB reserve at Northward Hill, David and his team were there. But how did he get the group involved in going backwards and forwards across the English Channel on a ferry? With displays, binoculars and telescopes, showing holiday makers seabirds and promoting the RSPB. How did he organise the RSPB Film Show events at the Woodville Hall? Several hundred people, some RSPB members and some not, would come along to be entertained, educated and inspired. David and his team were there, selling RSPB goods, recruiting and, of course, making everyone welcome.
For many years, David organised group trips to Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire and to Hardelot in France. These were wonderful occasions, great birding and, as always, great fun. Many of the group will also remember working with David at the RSPB charity stall at the Gravesend Open Market. With group members passing on unwanted items, David stored these in his attic until the day of the sale. Then his team went into action (at a ridiculously early time in the morning), moving all the boxes to the market stall and selling the items for the benefit of the RSPB. Over the years, they will have raised several thousand pounds. David also gave talks to RSPB and other community groups. He only asked for a donation to the RSPB and, when I became Group Treasurer, he passed many cheques to me (sometimes for only £10). By the end of my first financial year, the total exceeded £1000. Extraordinary commitment!
On one occasion David represented the group at the RSPB Northward Hill reserve where he met Bill Oddie and the reserve warden, Alan Parker. Alan let slip a comment that he could use some volunteers. Probably, even before David had returned home, he would have known the names of some of the people that would become his “Friday” Team. At first, this team worked in the woodland area, but when the carrot and onion fields adjacent to the wood were purchased by the RSPB, they set about creating a “home for nature”. In the days before the RSPB brought in professional contractors, those of us who were lucky enough to work with David, have great memories of hard physical work (well, sometimes), achievement and fun. David kept a diary of the work that the team did and, although the landscape looks “natural”, it is not. It has been recreated, and it is a living legacy to the inspiration of David Arnold.
On the service programme, the popular poem “The Measure of the Man” was used.
“Not how did he die, but how did he live? Not what did he gain, but what did he give”
Often used but never more true. David William Arnold 27th January 1930 – 3rd February 2017